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Birla Mandir

How to Avoid Getting Sick in India

I have been to India twice and spent a collective 7 weeks traveling the country. I have gotten a variety of illnesses including traveler’s diarrhea, cold/flu, and a UTI. Without fail, when I break one of these rules, I have gotten sick. They might seem like overkill, but in my opinion, it is worth it to not be on the toilet for a day!

1
Don't Drink Tap Water I think most people know this - but it is important. Not even locals drink tap water. The best option for tourists is to opt for bottled water. Most restaurants will serve you reverse osmosis water (RO) which should be safe, but the thing that gets me most times is that the glass or bottle was washed with normal water, and if you're sensitive, you can still get sick. Just stick to bottled only and you'll be fine.
2
Opt for No Ice Obviously if you can't drink the water, you can't have the ice. Often the waiters will say it is made from RO water - but I've still gotten sick. There are plenty of great bottled sodas, beer, wine, etc. It's worth it to avoid all together.
3
Wear a Mask Outside You're probably thinking, I did enough of that during peak COVID, but hey, you can do a bit more. The first time I came to India I was super diligent about wearing a mask to keep out pollution, dust, etc. The second time I was not and I got terrible throat pain and cold. Again, a minor inconvenience that I think is totally worth it.
4
Sanitize Frequently After getting a UTI in India, I now always follow a couple rules when I go to the bathroom. Sanitize your hands before and after going to the bathroom, bring your own toilet paper, spray Pee Safe or disinfectant before you go, and squat (don't sit).
5
Don't Eat Raw Fruits or Vegetables (from outside) This is again a case of avoiding the water. Most raw vegetables and fruits will be washed in normal tap water and you will get that when you eat them. One option is to re-wash it yourself with bottled water, or just opt for cooked.
6
Don't Eat Yogurt from Outside Yogurt can go bad pretty easily and if you don't know the conditions where it's stored, it's better to avoid it. This would be shrikhand, raita, anything that has raw yogurt from a restaurant (This is one that has gotten me sick before). If you want yogurt, get it packaged from a grocery store.
7
Opt for Freshly Cooked Items The best way to avoid bacteria that causes illness is to eat freshly cooked items. Avoid buffets when possible, but if you do eat at one, get things that have to be cooked for a long time (curries, dal, etc).
8
Follow the Locals and Use Best Judgement Locals won't eat at a place that is unsanitary and causes illness, so if it is busy, that's a good sign. You can also usually tell how sanitary a place is by how well kept the amenities are.
9
Stick to Mostly Vegetarian There is definitely more risk when it comes to the quality and preparation of meat, so if you're unsure, just stick to vegetarian. Splurge on a nicer restaurant to try meats.
10
Come Prepared It's pretty much inevitable that you'll at least get an upset stomach at some point, so come prepared with medications that work for you. I bring Pepto Bismol tablets with me at all times. My doctor also prescribed me azithromycin as an antibiotic if I get travelers diarrhea. Talk to your doctor about how to be prepared for any illness while abroad!

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